Disability Studies Quarterly
Winter 2006, Volume 26, No. 1
Copyright 2006 by the Society
for Disability Studies


Liat Ben-Moshe, Rebecca C. Cory, Mia Feldbaum, & Ken Sagendorf (Eds.) Building Pedagogical Curb Cuts: Incorporating Disability in the University Classroom and Curriculum. Syracuse, NY: The Graduate School, Syracuse University, 2005. Monograph available for free download at http://gradschpdprograms.syr.edu/resources/publications-books.php. Print version is forthcoming.

Reviewed by Susan Baglieri, Teachers College, Columbia University

Building Pedagogical Curb Cuts: Incorporating Disability in the University Classroom and Curriculum is an edited work that presents a Disability Studies-oriented overview of post-secondary instructional design in curriculum and teaching. Geared toward college educators, the overall strength of this book is its broad range of authors' perspectives as they collectively point out the roles that professors, instructors, teaching assistants, ASL interpreters, and students with and without disabilities may play in creating accessible classroom contexts.

In contrast to previous works aimed toward the college community (Hodge and Preston-Sabin, 1997, for example), this book reaches beyond the scope of strategies-focused compliance with the ADA, and through initially positioning chapters that disrupt able-ist curriculum and pedagogy, the editors emphasize socially responsible curriculum and universally accessible design. Individualized accommodations and legal concerns are not neglected however, though their appearance in the final section of the collection serve to frame these topics as illustrative, rather than as the sole or primary rationale for thinking about accommodation. The overall effect is that the reader is not immediately focused on compliance with the bare-minimum of federal policy, and is instead treated, first, to the ideas of those who think beyond compliance.

The first section, "Incorporating Disability in the Curriculum," is particularly strong. Each author eloquently articulates the pedagogical rationale behind her curriculum design, and nearly all provide a description of class activities and/or student responses to instruction. As Ann Millet's, Julia White's, Mia Feldbaum and Zach Rossetti's, and Kathy Kniepmann's chapters, respectively, contribute a pedagogically-oriented addition to the available literature that explores disability as a site for cultural critique in film and literature (see Darke, 1998; Mitchell & Snyder, 2000; and Thomson, 1997), Anita Ho's focus on bioethics classes, and Elizabeth Hamilton and Tammy Berberi's focus on the foreign language classroom offer a fresh look at other possibilities for disability-inclusive curriculum. The chapters here are chock full of film resources and instructional ideas, which are beautifully complemented by the authors' narratives on their teaching experiences. This section is a true departure from a traditional handbook of didactics, and represents a full exploration of the art and action in curriculum design.

Unfortunately, Section II, "Designing Instruction for Everyone," pales in comparison to the first. While the first section is robust with richly developed ideas, the opening chapter in the second section, "Nothing Special: Becoming a Good Teacher for All," by Zach Rossetti and Christy Ashby spans, perhaps, too many ideas in too short a space to be effective in illustrating its many important points. For example, the whirlwind description/comparison of the medical and social models of disability is superficially delineated, and the social model is concretely designated as an obvious "truth" through enlightenment. Although they manage to point out the relationship between the social model and universal design, I wonder if the authors' argument is a bit under-theorized to convince the "uninitiated." Further into Section II, Liat Ben-Moshe's chapter on disrupting "disabling language" and Thomas Argondizza's chapter on incorporating universal instruction might be a bit more palatable for novices to Disability Studies. Although these chapters take a more prescriptive tone and lack the depth and richness of the first section, I do think that educators can glean many significant ideas for instructional design.

The third section, "Students with Disabilities in the Classroom," focuses on students' experiences in advocating for individual accommodations, and educators' responsibility to these particular students. Anthony J. Nocella's and Elizabeth Sierra-Zarella's frank discussions of their experiences as students with disabilities, along with Katrina Arndt and Pat English-Sand's discussion of the role that (abled) students can play as "allies," serve to ground much of the previous section by demonstrating the taken-for-granted assumptions about disability that impact actual students. There is, however, a glaring contradiction between Ben-Moshe's chapter in which she problematizes terms such as "physically challenged," and Nocella's chapter in which he self-identifies as a "mentally challenged student." Although seasoned Disability Studies readers may interpret this linguistic nuance along a range of possibilities-- from the claiming of a disabled identity to a symbol of hegemonic self-representation-- novices may interpret this as a troubling inconsistency in disability terminology.

What this book may lack in uniform strength is amply compensated in its significance as a departure from the bureaucratic discourse of disability that generally permeates guides to working with "students with disabilities." The illustrative examples of curriculum design, wealth of resources, and way in which the sections can work together to frame a view of accessible environments as the collaborative work of all college community members make this a must-read for college educators.


Darke, P. (1998). Understanding cinematic representations of disability. In T. Shakespeare (Ed.), The disability reader: Social science perspectives (pp. 181-197). London: Casell.

Hodge, B. M., & Preston-Sabin, J. (Eds.). (1997). Accommodations or Just Good Teaching? Strategies for Teaching College Students with Disabilities. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Mitchell, D. T., & Snyder, S. L. (2000). Narrative prosthesis: Disability and the dependencies of discourse. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Thomson, R. G. (1997). Extraordinary bodies: Figuring physical disability in American culture and literature. New York: Columbia University Press.